U.S. may tighten L-1 visa rules to curb fraud

A Govt. body has pointed out that various norms are vague and unclear

Updated - June 02, 2016 10:56 am IST

Published - September 11, 2013 01:36 am IST - CHENNAI:

People are waiting in a queue for visa interview at U.S. Consulate General. File Photo: Mohammed Yousuf

People are waiting in a queue for visa interview at U.S. Consulate General. File Photo: Mohammed Yousuf

With the dust yet to settle over the recently-proposed U.S Immigration Bill, widely-touted as detrimental for Indian IT firms, a U.S Government body has trained its guns on the L-1 visa programme, saying that without some changes, the programme is at risk for fraud and abuse.

Currently, the largest users of the L-1 visa programme are either companies based in India, or those with operations here.

A recently-released report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General (IG) lists a series of recommendations to curb potential abuse, including more rigorous consideration of new office petitions to reduce fraud and abuse and consistently applying anti- “job-shop” provisions to L-1 petitions.

Periodic visits

Perhaps, most importantly, it also points out that “periodic visits by visa offers…and familiarisation trips by senior adjudicators to the posts in India where most L-1 visas are adjudicated” may be required. In addition to this, the report has pointed out that some of the visa programme’s rules are vague and that they are “insufficient to ensure consistent application of L-1B visa program requirements in processing petitions and visas.”

The L-1 visa programme facilitates the temporary transfer of foreign nationals with primarily specialist skills to the United States—a programme that has become more popular as IT firms shift to doing specialised and domain work. Unlike the H-1B visa, there is no cap or prevailing wage requirement with the L-1 visa.

The report, which was compiled at the request of a U.S lawmaker in the wake of the H-1B visa debate, does not offer any specific examples of abuse.

It also clearly states the data that was reviewed “provides no conclusive evidence that the L-1 visa program is being used to avoid H-1B restriction”—a common complaint U.S lawmakers make when referring to Indian IT firms.

The biggest users of the L-1 visa programme, according to data complied by the government body, are TCS and Cognizant—which received 26,000 and nearly 20,000 petitions from 2002 to 2011.

The third largest user was IBM India operations, which received 5,722 L-1 petitions.

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